Red Sox should alter Mookie Betts deal due to Alex Verdugo’s alleged past

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The resurfacing of reports that the centerpiece in the return for Mookie Betts was involved in a sexual assault are bad optics for the Red Sox.

If the optics of being investigated by Major League Baseball for alleged involvement in a massive cheating scandal wasn’t bad enough, the Boston Red Sox managed to amazingly look even worse with their trade of Mookie Betts and David Price. They sent the duo to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol as part of a three-team deal.

The issue isn’t the fact that the return wasn’t significant enough or the fact that there are apparently major red flags surrounding Graterol’s medical records, which has reportedly stalled the deal.

Instead, the issue centers around reports that have resurfaced regarding Verdugo’s alleged involvement in a 2015 sexual assault, along with Los Angeles Dodgers minor league teammate James Baldwin.

The incident was detailed by Jessica Quiroli of High Heels on the Field and was corroborated by Paul Rubin of Sports Illustrated in February of last year. The story is extremely disturbing and has gone largely unreported by most of the mainstream media.

I want to be clear, Verdugo was never named as an assailant in the alleged crime and was never charged or investigated. According to the report from Quiroli, he was supposedly at the party where this all occurred, but nothing was brought against him. With no concrete evidence against Verdugo we cannot treat him as an assailant but having the whispers around his name still isn’t a good look for Boston.

It remains unknown if the Red Sox ownership group and new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom were aware of Verdugo’s alleged involvement in the incident, or if they failed to do their due diligence. Regardless, either case is an extremely damning indictment on the Red Sox brass.

Either they willingly attempted to trade Betts and Price for a player with a massive scandal surrounding him or they were extremely negligent in extensively researching his background. While extreme ignorance and lack of investigation into the centerpiece in a trade for their franchise player is the better of the two scenarios, it is still not palatable for Red Sox fans.

While the Dodgers have apparently been extremely successful in suppressing news of the alleged involvement of one of their top prospects in what is a very disturbing situation, Boston’s management group would have to be naive to think that it would fly under the radar with their rabid fanbase.

As these reports gain more attention, the fallout will certainly be catastrophic for Boston. Red Sox fans are extremely engaged and are not known for their willingness to extend leniency to players. While there are numerous cases of Red Sox fans being brutal to players, one that comes immediately to mind is their treatment of legendary player Wade Boggs when rumors of an alleged affair surfaced.

Boston fans who are old enough to have witnessed it will distinctly recall the repeated chants of “MARRRGOOOO,” that rained down upon the Hall of Fame third baseman. If this occurred with one of the legendary players in Red Sox history who was one of “their” players, having come up through the system and played all of his career in Boston at the time of the incident, what does Red Sox management think the response will be from fans towards Verdugo?

After all, this is the main piece in a deal for the face of the franchise in Betts, who is arguably one of the top three players in Major League Baseball. Many fans are already bitter over the fact that Betts is being traded, the fact that it is for a player with this kind of egregious baggage will ratchet that resentment up exponentially.

If they have any shred of morality, the Red Sox ownership group would move with record quickness to call the Dodgers to tell them that the deal is off. Even if they still want to trade Betts and Price, they would be wise to start fresh with an entirely different return in the deal. They should allow Los Angeles to have to shoulder the burden of dealing with this situation.

There likely isn’t any Red Sox fan that will be willing to support a deal in which Boston trades its best player and a valuable part of their rotation for someone that may have alleged ties to an assault and a relief pitching prospect with a sketchy medical history, while still paying half of Price’s contract, all so that ownership can get under the luxury tax threshold.

That would represent one of the worst deals in baseball history. Not only from the standpoint of what the team would receive but because of the atrocities that the cornerstone part of the return had allegedly been involved in.

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For an ownership group that is clearly obsessed with profits and their financial status, the potential financial ramifications that would likely result from fans withdrawing their support from the team after dealing away the face of the franchise for a player with a despicable history would be significant. If they lack the moral compass to see why they should kill this deal, perhaps their love of money can serve as the driving force.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, who is the father of two girls who are avid fans of Boston, it will be extremely difficult for me to continue to support a team who knowingly brings in a player with a past that includes an alleged involvement in sexual assault. The message I would be sending by doing so is not one that I am willing to send.

It is hard to believe I stand alone in my stance on this situation. That is why I implore John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Sam Kennedy, Chaim Bloom and anyone else from the Red Sox who might be involved in this deal, to strongly consider the ramifications and to do the right thing and kill the deal for Verdugo. They need to create another package that is not only suiting for the talents of Betts and Price but will not bring another storm cloud to Boston.

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Properly repairing the already damaged reputation of the Boston Red Sox depends on them making the correct decision on such a sensitive matter. Failure to do so would likely represent catastrophic damage to the longterm reputation of one of the most storied franchises in baseball history.